Parenting is hard. It all starts even before your first child is born. You find out you’re pregnant and immediately begin the process of sacrificing your body for another as you sustain and nourish the life growing in your womb. You are constantly nauseous, have to give up your favorite coffee drink for nine months, grow increasingly uncomfortable as your belly expands, and can’t breathe or sleep well, all culminating in the actual act of laboring and birthing your baby.
You quickly realize, however, that all of that was the easy part. You leave the hospital with your baby wondering why in the world these doctors are trusting you to keep him alive – you know nothing about babies! You spend your child’s first year of life completely sleep-deprived, depending heavily on caffeine while you read every parenting book you can find and search Google for just about everything. (Should I let my baby “cry it out?” When should I start feeding him solids? What is a normal body temperate for an infant? How early should we start having playdates to foster social development?)
Then you hit the “terrible twos” and you realize how good you had it during that first year. Your child is becoming more and more independent and simultaneously more and more difficult. He has loud tantrums in the middle of Target for no apparent reason, causing all the other shoppers to cast judgmental stares in your direction as you melt into a puddle of embarrassment on aisle twelve. He starts talking more and may even repeat some phrases he has heard from that one relative that you really wish he hadn’t. He is no longer a baby, but he isn’t a “big boy” yet either. You spend the majority of this phase trying to balance letting him explore his independence and mature while still guiding and protecting him.
The next fifteen years are focused around your child’s schooling. During this phase, you must help your child learn how to read and write, manage his homework, chaperone his fieldtrips, make cupcakes for his class parties, deal with cliques and hurt feelings, send him to proms, guide him through his first relationships and also first heartbreaks, teach him to drive and take him to get his license, support him as he decides where to go to college, sob throughout his graduation, and then come to terms with the fact that, after all of this, he is moving out of your house and going out on his own into the world as a young adult.
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. In the words of Ed Asner, “Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare.” But for many of us, the hardest part of parenting is trusting God with our children.
If I’m honest with myself, deep down I believe that only I know what’s best for my children. I want to protect them from the dark and dangerous world we live in. I don’t want them to get hurt or sick. I never want them to feel scared or alone. And I do everything in my power to protect them from these things. The truth of the matter is, however, that I’m simply not in control of their lives – just like I’m not in control of my own.
It’s easy to feel a false sense of control in our lives, especially when things are going well, but the Bible is very clear about who is really in control of all things: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:9-10). “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). “You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding” (Psalm 139:5-6). “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
While it’s tempting to think we are in control when our circumstances are positive, sometimes we have no difficulty understanding that we don’t have control because it is painfully obvious. Every day at the Paul Anderson Youth Home we talk to parents who feel like their lives are spiraling out of control because their sons are addicted to drugs and alcohol, rebelling at home, failing in school, disrespecting authority, and making poor decisions left and right. Many of these parents have raised their children in godly, loving homes and never expected this kind of behavior from their sons. They have tried all sorts of discipline and simply cannot seem to reel their sons in. They are at the ends of their ropes, at a loss for where to go next, and fully aware that they have zero control in the situation.
It’s hard to fathom anyone loving our children more than we do, but we know that God does because His love is perfect. He has known the course of our children’s lives since the beginning of time, and He will direct them as He pleases for His glory. They will experience pain, hardships, consequences for poor decisions, and many things we wish we could protect them from, but God is sovereign, infinitely wise, and deeply loving. He knows what is best for them; we don’t. He sees the bigger picture that we don’t have access to. It’s hard to let go of our imaginary “control” in our children’s lives because we are afraid they will get hurt, and it’s hard to swallow the realization that we aren’t in control when our children stray, but we can rest assured that God will not only act in love, but with a love that is far greater than the love we have for our children. Ask God today to help you release your children from your clinched fists into the loving palms of His hands, or fall at His feet and surrender your helplessness to control your wayward children. Rest in the peace that will follow.
Is your teenage son struggling with addiction or unruly at home, school, or in the community? PAYH can help. Give us a call at 912-537-7237 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.